It was German backpackers who first “discovered” Krabi some 30 years ago and it is largely thanks to their pioneering work of lying around on deserted beaches and getting stoned that the area has grown and developed as it has.
Unfortunately this now means that there are fewer and fewer places left in Krabi for budget conscious travellers, though we do not suggest ruling out Krabi of your itinerary altogether. For, although you will find plenty of people sitting in coffee shops in Pai bitching about the high prices and lack of “authenticity” down south, there are still backpacker deals to be found and plenty of “real” experiences to be had.
Backpacker accommodation these days falls into two main categories: the party hostels that combine hipster chic dorm rooms with a social vibe (bringing punters in with cheap accommodation then upselling shots, bar crawls and booze cruises, among others); and the more traditional guest-houses, that tend to attract the longer-term, more culturally sensitive travellers, most of which now also offer dorm sleeping arrangements.
Expect to pay anywhere from 200 to 600 baht per bed per night, and up to 1200 – 1500 baht per room (for flashpacker digs). For lower prices, travel during “low season”, when rates are slashed up to 50%. The downside is that you may see more rain than during the rest of the year.
On some beaches – notably Tonsai, parts of East Railay, and southern Lanta – it is still possible to find the bamboo shacks of yore, with cold water shower and fan, along with occupants who climb or chill on the beach by day and play guitar by night.
Digital nomads will generally find neither this backpacker, nor the flashpacker, accommodation has adequate internet speed for their needs; and co-working spaces do not really exist here. Far better to go up north to Chiang Mai, Thailand’s digital nomad hub, or rent a place long-term in town that has a fixed fibre connection.
In terms of activities, the group tours are the cheapest way to see the sights, but are unlikely to tick many independent travellers’ boxes. Instead, look to finding people in your hostel – if there are a few of you, chartering a boat for the day becomes much more affordable. Scooters are cheap to rent (usually 250 baht per day) if you need to get around; look for automatic bikes if you have never driven before (and be careful!)
Street food is an obvious and very tasty choice if you are on a budget, and is not necessarily all spicy or even Thai. The area outside Ao Nang Mosque, and the night market in town offers kebabs, sandwiches and shakes, for example. The cheapest food, both western and Thai, is found in Krabi Town, which (if you are not looking for a beach), is the preferred choice of most backpackers.
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